The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will kick off their 2016-17 season in Green Bay Friday and Saturday for a weekend series against Northern Michigan University. This is the 6th straight year the Badgers and Wildcats will play to start the season with NMU dominating the matchup 7-1-2 over UW.
The Wildcats finished just under .500 last season with an overall record of 15-16-7, with two of those draws coming from the Badgers in opening series at the Kohl Center. The Badgers, on the other hand, had an underwhelming 2015-16 campaign, finishing 8-19-8 overall and managing only three Big Ten conference wins.
Wisconsin will be itching to get back on the ice after a 10-1 rout over the Victoria Vikes last weekend and are hungrier than ever to start the season off with a pair checks in the win column.
“They’re chomping at the bit to get out there and prove that what happened [last year], won’t happen again,” head coach Tony Granato said following Wednesday’s practice.
Wisconsin will look to their incredibly talented collection of forwards to continue the scoring Friday night.
“They’re really really skilled,” Granato said. “[They] might be one of the best group of forwards that have ever been here at one time.”
The sensational offensive squad is led by senior Grant Besse, team assist leader last year with 22, and sophomore captain Luke Kunin, last season’s team leader in both the goals scored and points column with 19 and 32, respectively.
Northern Michigan, however, will bring some serious strength and experience at the forward position and return four of their top five players from the previous season, including team leader in goals, senior Dominick Shine.
The Wildcats are coming off a 10-1 victory of their own over the same Victoria Vikes the Badgers dominated the day before. Both teams have the offensive fire power to get it done, but it seems the difference in this matchup will be which team is more physical.
“They work hard and play very aggressive,” said Granato, when asked what he knew about the Wildcats. The head coach of the Badgers attested to the Wildcats’ physical presence and their emphasis on the forecheck.
The Badgers haven’t notched a win over the Wildcats since 2011 and are more equipped and eager to pull off the upset now than they have been since.
Friday and Saturday’s match ups look to be an energy filled, intense start to the season, with neither team holding back. The fresh start for the Badgers begins Friday in the Resch Center at 7 p.m.